Flashback, Cowboys vs Vikings – 1983

The Cowboys went into the Metrodome in Minnesota with a 4-0 record early in the 1983 season. In the first four games of the season the Cowboys had to come from behind to win, this game against the Vikings would be no different.

The Vikings scored in the first quarter when Vikings quarterback Steve Dils went deep to wide receiver Sammy White. Everson Walls tripped as he was covering White, which allowed him to catch a 43 yard touchdown pass giving the Vikings a 7-0 lead. The Cowboys answered the Vikings score with a Rafael Septien 45 yard field goal as the first quarter ended.

In the second quarter Steve Dils went back to Sammy White. This time White was covered by Dennis Thurman, but the result was the same as the first quarter. Another touchdown for White, this time from 36 yards out and a 14-3 Vikings lead. The Vikings would add a field goal to increase their lead to 17-3 before Cowboys quarterback Danny White recorded their first touchdown of the game.

Facing a fourth and one from the Vikings two yard line, Danny White took the ball himself and ran in for the touchdown to get the Cowboys closer, 17-10.

With 45 seconds left in the first half the Cowboys faced a third down from their own eight yard line. The exchange between center Tom Rafferty and Danny White was fumbled and the Vikings recovered at the five yard line. On the next play the Vikings Ted Brown scored and increased the Vikings lead to 24-10.

After the Vikings kicked off the Cowboys got the ball at their own 19 yard line with 40 seconds left in the half. Coach Tom Landry thought the safe thing to do was to run out the clock and regroup at halftime. 

“It looked like the best thing was to get off the field with no more points being scored,” Landry said. 

Danny White had other ideas. Landry called in a running play for Tony Dorsett, but White did not agree and changed the play in the huddle.

“I was so confident we could move the ball,” White said. “I didn’t want to sit on it.”

White called for a pass to Doug Cosbie that could have gone for big yardage, but White overthrew Cosbie. It was clear that Landry was not happy with White changing the play and called for another running play to Dorsett. 

“He was sending me a message,” White said. “Actually, I got his message when I looked over to the sideline.”

Tony Dorsett gained ten yards on the next play and it was almost like Landry realized what White wanted to do. The next four plays were passes and White completed three of them gaining 54 yards. With the Cowboys sitting at the Vikings 28 yard line Septien kicked his second 45 yard field goal to end the first half and to get the Cowboys to within 24-13.

“I like for my quarterbacks to have freedom,” Landry said. “And we did end up with three points.”

“It would have been a real mistake to run out the clock without trying to get a field goal,” White said. “There were holes all over their defense. I knew we could move the ball. Sometimes you’ve got to react as a football player and do things on instinct.”

Midway through the third quarter the Cowboys defense forced the Vikings to punt. Rod Hill returned the punt 37 yards to the Vikings 47 yard line. From there Danny White led the Cowboys to the Vikings five yard line where Ron Springs scored to make the score 24-20 Vikings.

After a Danny White interception, the Vikings found themselves at the Cowboys 47 yard line looking to increase their lead. The Cowboys decided to run their 4-0 blitz package. For those who don’t remember the Cowboys loved to run a package of four defensive linemen, no linebackers and seven defensive backs, blitzing most of their secondary. This package sometimes got the defense into trouble, but other times the defense would capitalize. In this case it would be Dennis Thurman who blitzed from the outside and was able to raise his arm to obstruct Steve Dils vision. The result was Ron Fellows stepping in front of his receiver for an interception and racing 58 yards for a touchdown. This gave the Cowboys their first lead of the game, 27-24 with a little over two minutes to go in the third quarter.

“That ball was like a Christmas present,” Fellows said. “And if it’s free, I’ll take it.”

With the Cowboys defense controlling the Vikings offense in the second half. It was time for Dorsett to take control for the Cowboys offense. On a drive that consumed over six minutes, Dorsett had runs of 21 and 25 yards. From the Vikings 11 yard line White found Drew Pearson for an insurance score that increased the Cowboys lead to 34-24.

Tony Dorsett rushed for 141 yards against the Vikings despite dealing with a bruised thigh, bruised knee, sore ribs and a cracked bone in his right wrist.

“I was running for my life. I’m banged up all over my body,” Dorsett said.

Rafael Septien added his third field goal of the game to close out the scoring and giving the Cowboys a 37-24 victory. The Cowboys outscored the Vikings 24-0 in the second half to improve their record to 5-0. 

“It’s a legitimate 5-0,” Thurman said. “We can make plays like this all year and you’ll see us 14-2 or 15-1. The guys just don’t think they can lose. It’s a feeling you get in the huddle and the locker room. When we left for the second half, we knew something would happen.”

The Cowboys would push their record to 7-0 in 1983 before losing to the LA Raiders 40-38. They would finish the season with only a 5-3 record and lose in the playoffs to the LA Rams, 24-17.

The box score can be seen here.


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